What Difference Do Motorbikes Make In Bike Races? | GCN Does Science

What Difference Do Motorbikes Make In Bike Races? | GCN Does Science


– Motor vehicles within
professional bike races are a hot topic right now. But aside from the safety issue, there are a number of
pros who are concerned with the influence they are
having on the outcome of races. In fact, a few high-profile riders have publicly vented their frustration this year on social media. Amongst them, Andre Greipel, Dan Martin, Sep Vanmarcke, and Tosh Van der Sande. The question is though, how much difference do motos really make? We thought it was time for an experiment. – [Matt] Yeah, we’re
gonna do multiple runs along a fairly flat section of quiet road that’s just over two kilometres in length. We’re going to do each run
at exactly the same speed, around 43 kilometres an hour, and measure the average power each time. – [Dan] For the first two runs, I’m going to ride without
anything in front of me, i.e., into clean air. For the second two, I will
ride around five metres behind our camera motorbike. And for the final two runs, I’ll ride at around 10
metres behind the moto. – [Matt] I will then do the same, but in the reverse order of Dan, after which we shall analyse the results and see what, if anything,
the difference was. (driving pop music) – Right, I ended up with
about 43 Ks per hour average, just under three minutes, 2:55 for that, and an average power of 319 watts. So, let’s do that again
and then get pacey. (driving pop music) That is so much easier. I enjoyed that. (driving pop music) The results are in, and you will see the
numbers trickling down in a graphic on the screen at the moment. But in terms of the
percentage differences, for me, when I was five
metres behind the bike, I had an average saving of just under 20%. And when I was 10 metres behind the bike, I still had a significant saving of 11.5%. I’ve done the calculations
for you as well, just so I make sure they’re right. The percentage difference at
five metres behind the bike for you is slightly less than me, 17.3%. But at 10 metres, you also had a significant
saving of 10.6%, which is more, much more than
I was expecting, actually. I thought it would make a difference, but maybe not 10% at 10 metres. It does feel like a long
way behind it, doesn’t it? – I know, when I sat behind at 10 metres, it was like, “That is a long way away,” and you actually wouldn’t
even think in a race situation that you’re actually particularly close, but you’re clearly cutting through the air far more efficiently,
even at that distance. – Yeah, and I think there’s
a couple of things also to bear in mind. Firstly, that we were doing it
at our speed, 43 Ks an hour. Nevertheless, at the
crunch point of big races, those pros on a similar road would be doing upwards of
55 kilometres per hour. And the other thing is that we
did it behind one motorbike. Now, if you look at the overhead shots from the biggest races in the world, when key riders are making their attacks, there’ll be multiple motorbikes and sometimes even cars
not too far in front, and that must make a huge difference. The speed and the number of motos in terms of difference
to what we’ve done today, you’d imagine that the raw power and even the percentages is much greater. – Oh, without a shadow of a doubt. Essentially like an armada or a flotilla of vehicles basically you’re faced with rather
than one, but there you go. – [Dan] So, we’ve concluded
it makes a big difference. Do we have a solution to the problem? – Well, as ever, we don’t have a solution, but we have presented some
pretty interesting data to ponder upon, and it
does make you think, where does the responsibility lie? Is it with the motorcyclists themselves? Is it with bike riders? Is it with the race organisers? Do you know what, I think
it’s a collective decision that we all need to play
a part in, personally. – Yeah, I’ve been thinking
exactly the same thing whilst you were doing
your last couple of runs. We need to have the motorbikes there. There is the safety part of it, but that’s a completely separate thing and not what we were
trying to achieve today. But we do need a motorbike still
to provide us with pictures for our television coverage. We also need our riders there to provide us with still pictures as well. So, we do need vehicles. I do wonder if we need less of them and that they need some more instruction as to how far in front they have to be. However, they can’t have their
eyes on their wing mirrors at all times, so I think, like you, that there has to be some
responsibility from the riders to say, “Look, if there is a motorbike “that’s near enough to
gain an advantage from, “we go on the other side of the road.” And that wouldn’t always be possible when there’s corners and
there’s only one racing line, but on a big straight road, when you’re trying to catch the breakaway, ride into the wind; don’t
ride behind the motorbike. – And I think it’s fair to say, I mean, both of us have
raced at a reasonable level, there’s been many occasions I can remember when I’ve seen the motorbike go, I’ve come in the position
where I wanna attack, and I would generally
follow the motorcycle, and quite often I’ll follow
it across the road and weave so I can stay in that slipstream. So, I’ve done it before, I
know you’ve done it before, it’s just about, I think, potentially changing our kind of mindsets. But again, who’s gonna be the referee in those sorta situations? Is it gonna be the commissaire or is it gonna be one of
those unwritten rules? Fascinating.
– It will be very difficult because it is second nature to some, ’cause you’re almost
computerised to take advantage of sheltering from the
wind whenever you can. Anyway, I think all we can say is that there is a lot
of food for thought, because it does seem like motos potentially are affecting
the outcome of races. – And do you know what? We’d actually love to hear
what you think of the subject, what are your ideas as well, so stick ’em in the
comment section down below. And if you haven’t
already subscribed to GCN, the Global Cycling
Network, your one-stop shop for all things cycling, click
on the globe; it’s free. – Now, a couple of videos that you might be
interested in watching now. There are, of course, cases where slipstreaming is legitimate, and that is behind other riders, and we show you how to ride
on the wheel just down here. – Or, if you click just down here, me and Dan found out in
very sunny and hot Andorra what difference weight
makes when riding uphill. It’s quite a lot, isn’t it? – It was. It was also significant. – Significant results, yet again.